We really do live in a time of remarkable technological capabilities. Without advancements in data collection and online communication, two of the articles that topped cardiovascular news this week might not have occurred.
The first is a look at a report released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) that offered details on hospital costs, inpatient discharges, average length of stay and mortality rates for 12 cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions and procedures. The analysis used Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data provided by 46 states. In a welcome sign of trends to come, analysts extracted early data submitted by 10 states in 2011 to make 2012 projections.
AHRQ claims that HCUP is the largest collection of longitudinal hospital care data in the U.S. The agency boasts that the 2010 database covers more than 97 percent of all community hospital discharges. In the past, some HCUP-based reports have contained results based on data from three years prior, though, and seemed stale.
“Although full-year administrative hospital data typically lag the current calendar year by nine to 15 months, some HCUP Partner organizations can now produce quarterly data files within four to six months following the close of a quarter,” wrote the authors of the report, HCUP Projections: Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Conditions and Procedures 2011 to 2012. “This ‘early’ data is used to inform the projection models.”
On another front, the ability for anyone with a computer with speakers and internet access to log into the quarterly investor calls available on some public companies’ websites provided details for a story about the hospital network HCA’s cardiac care inquiry. HCA was asked in July by the Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney in Miami to share any information it has on reviews assessing the medical necessity of cardiac services at its hospitals.
The Aug. 6 call, largely attended by analysts, began with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” request that pointed interested parties to a statement posted on the company’s website in the then-anticipated release of an unfavorable New York Times story. Then followed a scripted reading of financials and a question-answer period.
After several standard questions, an analyst challenged the executives to address the cardiac care issue, arguing it was a legitimate request because their stock was going south. Executives acknowledged that they had been approached by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and that they “were trying to determine which hospitals have had such reviews.” The count as of Aug. 6 was 10. The Times article, which was published in print Aug. 7, described allegations of unnecessary stenting.
It is worth noting that the week included many advancements of other kinds, such as a study on defibrillation testing of de novo implantable cardioverter-defibrillator devices during insertion. The researchers suggested testing may be omitted. Or another study that supported the use of noninvasive coronary CT angiography for detecting obstructive coronary stenosis in women.
There surely will be plenty more in the days and weeks to come.
Cardiovascular Business, editor